• Katy Gardener

VIDEO: How to bring French style into your garden

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

This post covers the main principles of French garden design.

In the video I discuss 5 key rules to add a touch of je ne sais quoi into your garden scheme.

Beneath the video I have included further details of French garden design and how best to emulate it at home no matter the size of your outdoor space.

If your interest is piqued, make sure to watch and read.

French garden design is inspired by the gardens of the Italian Renaissance, where order and symmetry were used to prove man's power over nature.

Formal French garden design is epitomised by the spectacular gardens at Versailles which are truly fit for a King. Geometric shapes, topiary and symmetrical hedging are all vital at creating a sense of grandeur and order.

It's unrealistic to mimic the gardens at Versailles, but is is possible to successfully translate some of the ideas into a more modern scene.

5 Key rules to consider when going French

1. Order and Symmetry

Think about creating a sense of balance in your garden. This could be as simple as having two terracotta pots placed either side of a doorway, or having a lavender border lining either side of a gravel path.

Use focal points to guide the eye from one area of the garden to the next. Water fountains, urns, sundials or topiary placed in a central position are perfect for this.

2. Embrace hard surfaces

Stone terraces and gravel paths are prevalent in French gardens. They maintain the sense of order with neat straight lines and act as a natural guide as you move through different areas of a garden.

Other hard surfaces used by the French include plenty of stone and terracotta pots scattered through the garden as well as metal structures e.g. arbours or pergolas that create romantic shady areas as climbing plants grow overhead.

3. Use an understated colour scheme

Rarely do you see a cacophony of garish colours in a French garden.

The French favour a subtle scheme of whites, blues, purples and green.

  • For plants and shrubs think: lavender, wisteria, roses, hydrangeas, agapanthus.

  • For greenery think: box hedging, Cyprus and olive trees

When it comes to planting, the French often plant lots of one variety of plant in a single border. This creates an impact and is less confused that planting lots of different variations in a busy scheme.

4. Embrace a vegetable garden or 'potager'

Formal French gardens are known for their incredible kitchen gardens with vegetables and fruit trees organised to perfection.

The French care deeply about the provenance of their food, and much of their cuisine is based around delicious seasonal produce. Pick out your favourite French recipes and try to grow the seasonal produce yourself.

5. Create a romantic outdoor dining space

Point 4, hints at the importance of food in French culture, and a big part of that is the art of dining by sharing a meal together with family and friends.

During the summer months copy the Gallic style and create a romantic outdoor dining area in a shaded spot.

If space allows, try to position the dining area slightly away from the house as it gives you a different perspective of the garden.


Et voila!

Now you have the tools to add a French flourish into your garden scheme at home.

Once you're confident to travel it's well worth visiting some French gardens for further inspiration and here is a list of the best ones to visit.

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